Pearl Berg, 9th oldest person in the world, dies in L.A. at 114

Pearl Berg smiles while sitting in a chair in her living room.
Pearl Berg at her home in Los Angeles on Jan. 29, 2020. Pearl Berg, the ninth oldest person in the world, passed away Thursday.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

Pearl Berg, the ninth oldest person in the world and a source of love and wit to her family, has died in Los Angeles at 114.

Berg had many titles including the world’s oldest Jewish person, the third oldest American and the ninth oldest person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

But to Berg’s family she was everyone’s mother figure, full of wit and sincerity.

“She maybe had a sip of Sabbath wine but she didn’t drink, she didn’t smoke, she ate sensibly, she had good emotional balance and she clearly had remarkable genes,” said Berg’s youngest son, Robert Berg.

Berg died peacefully in her Los Feliz home on Thursday.

Born Oct. 1, 1909, Berg was raised in Pittsburgh, but the Depression decimated her father’s career in the automobile business, which prompted the family to search for a new beginning elsewhere. They moved to Los Angeles and about a week later, Berg met her future husband, Mark Berg.

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The couple married in 1931 and later had two children, Dr. Alan Paul Berg and Robert Joel Berg.

Berg’s husband, Mark, was the general manager of his family business, Berg Metals, and later started other companies of which he was the minority shareholder.


National leaders of the industry would have dinner at the Berg residence, but it wasn’t just to talk shop, Robert recalls. It was also to speak with his mother.

“They came because of her scintillating personality, wonderful laughter, repartee, great cooking and particularly her coconut cream cake,” Robert said.

“I mean these are big-time people and she was the secret weapon, I think, to a lot of business success.”

Her husband died in 1989, in the 58th year of their marriage.

Berg’s philanthropic work centered on Nordea Chapter of Hadassah, where she was an active officer and served as president for a few years, and the Sisterhood of Temple Israel of Hollywood, where she was a member.

The Times interviewed Berg in her 110th year of life, during which she actively played bridge, read, ate chocolate and enjoyed the company of family, friends and her team of caregivers.

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With every new person she met Berg brought them into the fold of her life. Her only grandchild, Belinda Berg, said her commitment to family was unwavering. When Belinda brought her wife, Kathryn Ramquist, to meet her grandmother, she welcomed the couple with open arms and shortly afterward Berg quietly added “gay and lesbian organizations to her philanthropic list because she wanted to support us in that kind of global way,” Belinda said.

“[Berg] would always say to me, ‘all good things for you’ and I knew deep down she wanted the very best for me, I felt it,” Ramquist said.

The year Berg’s husband died, Robert’s second wife, Vivian Lowery Derryck, said she remembered wanting to share cultural dishes with the family and Berg encouraged her to.

“It was just her natural way of integrating me into the family,” Derryck said.

During the last four years of her life, the family said her body was beginning to slow down but she maintained her wit and her ability to tell a tale.